Occupation and the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma

Paolo Boffetta, Frank De Vocht

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Although thus far no occupational agents have been classified as established causes of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), employment as a farmer, teacher, dry cleaner, meat worker, printer, or wood worker has been associated with elevated risk in the peer-reviewed literature. We conducted several meta-analyses to assess risk in these occupations and industries from articles published in MEDLINE up to August 1, 2006. The summary risk estimates suggest a homogeneous excess risk for NHL among workers in the printing industry [relative risk (RR), 1.86; 95% confidence interval (95% CI), 1.37-2.52] and wood workers (RR, 1.15; 95% CI, 1.00-1.31). Considerable heterogeneity but elevated risks were found for farmers (RR, 1.11; 95% CI, 1.05-1.17), especially in animal husbandry (RR, 1.31; 95% CI, 1.08-1.60), and teaching (RR, 1.47; 95% CI, 1.34-1.61). An increased risk was absent for employment in the meat processing industry (RR, 0.99; 95% CI, 0.77-1.29). These results suggest that although excess risk is found for employment in the printing industry, wood processing industry, teaching, and farming, it is unlikely that occupation represents a major risk factor for NHL in most populations. At present, no conclusive evidence of causal relations between occupations and increased NHL risk exists; this can be ascribed to methodologic problems in studying the link between NHL risk and occupation, including heterogeneity of disease and exposure circumstances and low statistical power. Implementing state-of-the-art exposure assessment technologies, including biomarker-based assessment, and aiming to identify susceptible subgroups can increase the statistical power enough to analyze etiologically relevant NHL subtypes and provide clues on possible causal agents in future studies. These goals can be best attained within the framework of large-scale, international collaborative projects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)369-372
Number of pages4
JournalCancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2007
Externally publishedYes


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